It’s important to look back occasionally while on the long road

Yesterday morning, WordPress congratulated me on my blog’s third anniversary. There was even a fancy little trophy icon by the announcement.

Never mind that I hadn’t posted an article in nearly three months—or in this calendar year.

TrophyIt’s not that I had given up on One Million Words; I simply have prioritized the heavy editing/rewriting of my novel, If Sin Dwells Deep, over blogging. I knew I’d come back to this blog at some point, and I almost broke down last month and wrote the clichéd I’m-taking-a-break-but-stay-tuned! post to let all of my readers know that I’m still alive, but to be honest, I didn’t think anyone even noticed my silence.

After all, I know most (if not all) of my author’s Facebook page’s 85 “likers” on a personal level, so they’ve probably seen my non-writing-related comments on my other account. And the majority of my 58 followers on Twitter have hundreds, if not thousands, of other tweeters to fill their feeds each day.

Also, no one really reads this blog.

Well, that’s not entirely true. According to WordPress (the content management system upon which my website is built), I have 127 followers. Now, I can’t say with certainty that any of them actually read my posts (except those precious few who take time out of their busy schedules to comment on them), but they cared enough at one point to click the “Follow” button.

Delving into my site stats, I also find that there have been 357 comments over the past three years, and even if I estimate that half of those were mine (in reply to others’ comments), that still leaves more than 170 times someone read and replied.

While these aren’t big numbers compared to many, many other blogs, I take some solace in them nonetheless. I’m a big fan of measurable goals. I’m also a progress junky. Every now and then, I need to take stock of what I’ve accomplished, even if they are small successes.

Because most of the time, I’m terrible at acknowledging my accomplishments, especially modest ones. Every silver lining has a storm cloud and all that…

For example, while reviewing my early notes on my current project, I noticed a timestamp that caught me off guard. My very first ideas about this novel—the sequel (maybe) to If Souls Can Sleep—was dated 7/14/10.

Sweet sassy molassy, I’ve been working on this book for more than four and a half years?!

What’s worse is that I still have a ways to go with the editing, which means it could end up being five years or more from inception to completion.

To prevent myself from hyperventilating, I reminded myself that I tackled a number of other projects between July 2010 and March 2015: starting and populating this website, editing and publishing a children’s chapter book with my wife, writing a new short story (“Ghost Mode”), attempting to get that and another short story published. Oh, and real life happened somewhere in there too.

Perhaps it was a bit masochistic of me, but after seeing how long I’ve been working on Book 2, I opened my notes file for Book 1, did the math, and discovered that that novel took me four and a half years to plan, write, rewrite, proof, and submit to my agent. That means, when all is said and done, I likely will have pumped close to a decade into the first two books of The Soul Sleep Cycle.

And I still have at least one more book to go!

Then there are the four sword-and-sorcery novels I wrote before diving into a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid world of The Soul Sleep Cycle. Add in the experimental children’s book, and I’ve written seven novels. None of them are available for purchase.

I doubt there’s a word to describe the combination of emotions I experience when I consider the situation. I’m at once impressed with what I’ve done, amazed at how much of my life I’ve dedicated to this project, and disappointed that I don’t have more to show for it. “Impressamazappointed”?

If nothing else, the fact that I’ve put so much time and energy into my fiction without a significant return on investment indicates I have the thick skin and tenacity it takes to make it as a writer.

Or maybe it just proves that I am a masochist, after all…

Some aspects of my writing are quantifiable. As for this blog, I can easily conjure up this statistic: Over the past three years, I have published 51 posts (not including this one). And while that’s not a ton of content compared to some other sites out there, that’s 51 posts more than I would have written if I hadn’t overcome my prejudice of the medium and decided to add my perspective on the topic of fiction writing to the Web.

Other attributes are not so easily quantified, such as the satisfaction of transforming an idea in my head to a full-fledged story on the page or the frustration and guilt I feel when I go too long without a writing session.

If this were only a numbers game, I wouldn’t have much to show for my 17 years of being a dedicated writer. But every experience within that span has made me a better writer and wiser when it comes to the publishing world.

Were I to keep my eyes fixed solely on the destination, which always seems just beyond the horizon, I probably would have swerved off of this wonderful and terrifying road by now. But even when I’m enjoying the journey for the journey’s sake, I know I need to look back at the milestones I’ve passed along the way, if only to remind myself of the distance I’ve already crossed.

Even if that reminder comes in the form of a cheesy trophy graphic.

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6 Comments

Filed under Writing

6 responses to “It’s important to look back occasionally while on the long road

  1. I’m impressamazed with all of your stat crunching (but how many words?!) and wish to cast a buoy of encouragement and a plug of shark repellent for your continued journey. It’s enough to be writing regularly, and to have written as much as you have, to know that you are a writer. My advice – which is free and worth the paper it isn’t printed on – love your stories, write them for just one person, and forget for a moment that anyone else is reading them. And don’t quit. You characters need you. Besides, as you know, the process of publication is long, time-consuming, tedious, and momentarily satisfying. The writing is all. Drafting-revising-rewriting-revising-despairing-revising-starting over-stepping away-rewriting-revising-submitting. It’s one journey with many stops along the way. And as Lao Tzu allegedly stated, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” I don’t know if that’s great advice for a writing career, but it’s not a bad way to travel until you actually do arrive.

    • How many words? Well, in 2006, I was at 1,067,784 words. If I were to include all of my writing about writing (both nonfiction projects and planning/brainstorming documents), I have to believe I’m at least at 1.5 million these days.

      Thanks for the advice…it’s a sound philosophy and one that has given me the fuel to keep on truckin’. If my only marker for success were the (now dubious) status of “published,” I’d have a lot to be disappointed about. But I am writing these novels for me, and I do get a sense of accomplishment and joy from what I am doing and have done. The writing is the focus; publication is simply distribution.

      Thanks for reading…and commenting!

  2. Thomas Ramirz

    Wow, David, all those years! You are ONE determined dude.

    Reminds me of the time I was unpublished (story-wise) and despaired. I was trying to break into NY DAILY NEWS, which did a daily short-short. I told my agent, Larrry Sternig, that I’d write 20 stories for them. If one didn’t sell by then, I’d hang up my author aspirations for good. Build airplane models or something.

    Well the 18th story sold! ( A whole $50.) I continued to write and sell to this paper for a time, but as time passed there were bigger fish to fry.

    And once I was established (1961-71) I was writing my trashy novels in ten days or less. With other (better intentioned) ones in between.

    I was just TYPING you say?

    Perhaps. But well-paid typing, enna?.

    Persistence, lad. Faith. It will happen. You are too skilled to fail.

    Thomas Agrommus

  3. Mark Engels

    Glad we had a chance to talk about the points you made further. As of this writing you’re five times the writer I am and you have the word counts to prove it. Being toward the back of this crazy formation it’s discouraging to hear my point man grumble whether we’ll ever get to where we’re going when all I can think about is my sore feet. But in between hacking our way through the brush, we do get to enjoy the picturesque landscape for a bit before we hit the trail again.

    The thought came to me of a running a marathon. Great to train for and then go run it. Our society gives cred and lots of it to someone who prepares for one, runs it, and finishes regardless of where they place. But no one cares (well, friends and loved ones aside, that is) if you made it to Mile 25 and tore your hammy even if it was the best run of your life. Get sewn up and start training again as soon as you’re upright. Then come back next year and run the race all the way to the finish line.

    I don’t think you and I are so much as running one marathon as we are several. With each one we *almost* finish, I think we’re better trained, prepared and equipped to start–and finish!–the next one. Or the one after that. Or the one after *that* maybe. Whatever. The finish line is ahead of us *somewhere*. Just give a shout back over your shoulder my way when you finally cross it.

    MJE

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